Sustainability is more than just a buzzword for e-commerce survival

Recent changes in consumer behavior will significantly impact brand sales this year and beyond. Brand marketers need to refocus efforts on the sustainability of the planet. Otherwise, they risk losing their consumer bases to brands that do.

E-commerce specialist Astound Commerce, in partnership with digital commerce platform Shopify, has published the results of a study titled “Sustainability and Your Customer”. This new report follows a record year of extreme climate in 2022, which ranged from a season of deadly Atlantic hurricanes to torrential rains and melting glaciers in Pakistan to record high temperatures in Europe not seen in nearly 500 years.

Global consumers are under no illusions about the long-term threat of climate change, according to several recent studies. This latest report explores the latest shifts in consumer behavior and how it will affect brands in 2023.

Research has shown that consumers around the world are willing to pay more for sustainable products. The report found that three out of five global consumers consider a company’s stance on environmental issues. A favorable climate change stance had at least some influence on the purchase decision.

In light of this research, the bottom line for businesses is to consider the added costs of supporting the environment versus not having a viable business, suggested Vanessa Cartwright, North America CEO of Astound Commerce.

“It’s the young customer base that you know will be important to the future of your business. You know you’ve got to make some changes or you’re not going to be competitive with the others at the end of the day,” Cartwright told The E-Commerce Times.

The results reveal a shift in shopping priorities

The researchers surveyed 1,000 global consumers from the Americas (Canada, Mexico, and the United States), Europe (Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom), and the Middle East (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States). United Arab Emirates).

The questions focused on understanding how consumer behaviors related to sustainability have evolved and how they will shape the future of commerce.

Gen Z consumers are most influenced by a brand’s stance on environmental issues at 62%. These consumers are using their purchasing power to advocate for climate action, demonstrating that brands need an authentic, transparent environmental messaging strategy.

According to the report, a solid 70% of millennial consumers consider a brand’s business practices at least somewhat important when shopping online.

This sustainability report was Astound Commerce’s first, so benchmarks from previous years are not yet available. But the data spoke directly to the role that products play in influencing consumer purchase. Cartwright observed that consumer awareness of the brand’s supply chain practices played an important role.

For example, elements such as low emissions, shipping and recycled packaging rank highly when deciding which brands to support by purchasing products. “A lot of the data was more of a supply chain side’s recognition of the role of effective product packaging,” he said.

Cartwright further explained that consumers make decisions based on whether their purchases are packaged together in one pass or delivered in separate discrete parcels. The packaging used in the process is also very important for them.

“I think that speaks to the level of sophistication of the understanding,” he observed.

Rally around resale

The report highlights the importance of reselling used products in relation to environmental sustainability, as reselling can help brands extend the life cycle of their products, reduce waste and strengthen their commitment to sustainability.

The resale market has grown significantly in recent years. the report attributes that growth to innovative startups and resale sites.

According to the report, Statista predicts that the value of the used clothing market will double over the next few years to reach US$218 billion by 2026, making it a powerful potential revenue driver for apparel brands, according to the report.

Reselling can also give brands the additional opportunity to resell returned products as a way to limit unwanted stock ending up in landfills around the world. Consumers are showing strong interest in this solution, with 54% saying they are at least somewhat interested in this sustainable model, led by 59% of millennials.

Legalization of related research

The Astound sustainability study echoes the findings of a similar study conducted by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the past two years. The WEF was established in 1971 as a non-profit foundation in Geneva by Klaus Schwab.

The 17th edition of the Global Risks Report, published in January 2022, identifies the tensions that will result from the recovery of recent economic and environmental problems. Fast and slow recovering countries must navigate economic and social gaps to restore social cohesion, boost employment and thrive.

According to the WEF report, the study rated climate change inaction “as the most damaging risk globally over the next decade.” Human health will bear the brunt of this damage – disrupted food systems, reduced air and water quality, uninhabitable regions and more – as global temperatures continue to rise without action.

Consumers are feeling the magnitude of this crisis and want brands to act now, echoes a report by Astound Commerce that cited the WEF study.

In addition to environmental efforts, brands should also consider their digital business practices as a direct opportunity to advance their environmental goals, Astound’s sustainability report highlights.

It warned that managing cumbersome, outdated internal infrastructure, using inefficient coding methods and storing unused data can waste energy, contribute to your carbon footprint and cost a brand valuable time and resources.

The net climate cost of trade

Cartwright noted that the company’s research was largely about the consumer perspective and was done on a global scale. It showed that there was a big shift in consumers making purchasing decisions based on what they understood to be the company’s actions to make themselves more sustainable.

“How much of those decisions are really affected by climate sustainability and what affects consumers the most,” he suggested.

The data found that while the product itself is important, consumers also value the climate costs associated with product purchases.

chart of demographic preferences for sustainable business practices

Credit: Sustainability and your customer report by Astound Commerce and Shopify

Research shows that there is a strong interest among consumers around the world, that products that are completely recycled or made from recycled materials have had a higher percentage of people influenced by sustainability who choose to buy them.

Cartwright doesn’t imagine that, as a rule, end consumers know much about what goes on in warehouses and the actual shipping processes. However, he believes people are starting to make decisions based on where their purchases are being shipped from.

What transport is used to get this product to me? If it’s coming from a distant place, and it’s coming in a really short amount of time, it’s probably coming by air, not by sea, which probably seems the least sustainable, he reasoned.

“So the fact that people are thinking as deeply as I am and making choices like I do says that there’s an evolution of understanding where it’s not just, ‘Oh, this thing I’m buying is recyclable or made : processed product. It goes further,” he said.

How organizations can develop sustainability

Shopify, Astound Commerce’s partner in this report, educates consumers and gives them choices to support sustainability. It uses its website as a sign of why the sustainability of the planet is necessary.

In 2019, Shopify began supplying renewable energy to heat, cool and power its buildings and employee home offices. According to the sustainability page on its website, the company has acquired enough green energy to account for the carbon footprint associated with natural gas and electricity in Canada.

Cartwright offered another example of what Goodwill Industries is doing to let consumers know what it’s doing to promote sustainability. Goodwill sells used clothing and other items on its GoodwillFinds website.

The online store makes the group’s mission to distribute products to those in need much more accessible. The organization recovers more than three billion pounds of used products annually, diverting them from landfills and giving them a second life.

GoodwillFinds openly demonstrates how it provides a sense of sustainability on its website. Its slogan, “Your Choice Matters,” says that buying a pair of “frugal” jeans can save more than 1,800 gallons of water, keep toxins out of major water supplies, and keep thousands of shredded fibers out of our oceans.

Source link